Since the primary elections in Alabama earlier this year, there has been growing momentum among Republican lawmakers and leadership to consider moving toward a closed primary system in the state.
Many feel the result in the Senate District 27 GOP primary election is an example of how open primaries can hurt the process. In that election, Auburn University creative writing professor Anton DiSclafani, an open liberal Democrat, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that she voted in the Republican primary against incumbent State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn). Whatley lost the contest by a single vote.
Friday, Former Alabama Republican Party chair Terry Lathan said on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” that it was past time to implement a closed primary system in the Yellowhammer State.
“I’ve been a fan of that for a long time,” Lathan said.
The former chairwoman said there was overwhelming evidence that showed the amount of crossover voting taking place in these primary contests.
“[I]t is time. I do believe it’s time,” she argued. “I can give you examples, the data shows us that the United States Senate candidate, a Libertarian candidate, and the United States independent candidate voted in the Republican primary on May 24. Now we have candidates. There’s a Democratic candidate in Mobile County [who] voted in the Republican primary. If that is not a big, I guess blue flag not red flag, I don’t know what is! And so, yes, I think it’s absolutely time to do this.”
Lathan said an open primary system was unfair to the Republican candidates in Alabama.
“It is fair to say,” she continued, “let us pick our team and you pick [your] team…If the Alabama fans could pick the Auburn football players or the Auburn fans could pick the Alabama football players, I think the governor would have to call out the National Guard in this state. It would be chaotic. It would be insane.”
She also pointed out Alabama would be following the leads of other states that already had successful closed primary systems.
“So, all were saying it ‘hey, let’s pick our folks, you pick your folks, we’ll see you in November,” she said. “I think that’s very common sense and over 31 states have this ability now.”
While some lawmakers have had concerns about how a closed primary system would be implemented and enforced, Lathan suggested a simple solution.
“Let’s say this bill passed, and we have closed primaries in the legislature in voting in 2023, come the end of this year,” she explained, “so any elections after that law passed and the governor would sign it, simply when you went to vote you ask for a Republican or Democratic ballot and that’s automatic registry. That’s all you got to do. Automatic. And then if you want to change it as a voter than you can change it. So there’s a way that’s an easy process, you can change it back and forth if you want, but it’s incumbent on the voter to do that. It’s simple simple.”